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Nico Rosberg on pole for European Grand Prix in Baku

Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the European Grand Prix in Baku. His Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton qualified only tenth after hitting a wall.

Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg starts on pole at Sunday's European Grand Prix in Baku after his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton crashed out of qualifying in an error-strewn performance.

Hamilton, who was quickest in all three practice sessions, clipped his right front wheel on a wall near the Baku fortress in the twisty old town section of the street circuit. The reigning world champion qualified 10th.

Force India's Sergio Perez was second but after also hitting a wall. The accident forced him to change his gearbox, and he will take a five-place grid penalty.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo qualified third ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in fourth and fifth respectively, but all will move up a spot due to Perez's demotion.

"It was one of the more challenging sessions out there but it worked out well. All weekend I was building towards it and qualifying was really optimum, it felt good," Rosberg said, adding that Hamilton could still bounce back:

"Lewis has shown very often from 10th place he can come back very strongly. In Russia he finished an easy second," Rosberg said.

Hamilton: 'damage limitation'

Hamilton said that the race was going to be an exercise in damage control: "I can't really say yet what possibilities there are but obviously I have to try and get up as high as possible tomorrow. It is damage limitation from here and I will do what I can," said Hamilton.

"The team made a change to something overnight but I was just not on it today. I had a fantastic rhythm yesterday but zero today. Sometimes it happens," Hamilton said.

ss/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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